CHANGSHA, China – Tab Baldwin believes Andray Blatche got the better of Hamed Haddadi in the first ever Fiba Asia duel between the two dominant giants.
The Gilas Pilipinas coach observed how the 7-foot-2 Haddadi played a bit tentatively against Blatche, who towed the Philippines to a rousing 87-73 win over Iran to catch up with the defending champions on top of the Group E standings.
Blatche finished with 18 points on 5-of-10 shooting, had seven rebounds and four steals despite playing with a sore right ankle after spraining hit in a game against Japan the previous playing day.
Haddadi on the other hand, came away with just 10 points (4-of-9 from the field) and seven rebounds before fouling out in the final four minutes of the match when Gilas was pulling away for good.
“It may have been a cause for Hamed to pause a little bit today and be a little tentative. Andray is that kind of player, he’s smart, he’s skilled, he’s big and strong. So that presented problems for Hamed,” Baldwin noted.
As talented as Haddadi is, Baldwin said he rarely gets to play against a player as talented and competitive as the 6-foot-11 Blatche, a former Washington Wizard and Brooklyn Net player.
And that’s where the Gilas naturalized player has the edge over his Iranian counterpart.
“He doesn’t see a player like Andray enough. He doesn’t see somebody of that size, strength, and smarts,” said Baldwin. “And I think the more Hamed would play against Andray, the better he would get. But he doesn’t get that opportunity.”
The 29-year-old Blatche reported for Gilas training camp obviously not in the same shape he was when he first suited up for the national team in last year’s Fiba World Cup in Spain.
Even now that the Olympic qualifying tournament is on its way to the knockout stage, the New York native has yet to completely show the form that made him a nine-year NBA veteran.
Still, Baldwin has been very satisfied with what Blatche, who now plays for the Xinjiang Flying Tigers in the CBA (Chinese Basketball Association), has been bringing to the table so far for Gilas.
“On the offensive end, Andray had a pretty good game. His efficiency is where we would like him to be. You have to respect what his ability is,” said Baldwin.
“He gave us enough minutes, he gave us enough energy, he gave us enough points and rebounding. In today’s game, I think the scales would tip in his favor.”